First of all, what is an open ended question?

An open ended question is one that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or a “no”. The person who is answering has to answer in his or her own words. These are questions that begin with a how, when, where, what, why. On the contrary, a closed ended question is one that expects a “Yes” or a “No” as an answer. Also, a set of options to choose from as a response is a closed ended question too.

They say, to start a conversation with a stranger in a railway station is to talk about the weather. “The weather is nice today, isn’t it ?” is a conversation starter. Tried and tested practice. Though it is a closed ended question, it is a conversation starter. So, you start with a closed ended question and gradually move on to open ended ones. That way, you don’t force the respondent to start thinking right at the beginning itself.

In Sales situations, you normally tend to ask: “Before I start, may I know who are the others who will be joining us for this presentation/demo?” That is a closed ended question. But starts the conversation. And eases the situation. It shows the client that you are human too. And then you follow-up with something like this: “Before the others join us, why don’t you tell me how are you currently solving this problem?”

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Why open ended questions?

  • Sales is largely dependent on your questioning capability.
  • Unless you ask questions, you will never understand what is going on.
  • Your right questions will lead you to the issues which will lead you to solving those issues which in turn will lead you to business.
  • Closed ended questions do not reveal much. Some may be answered in the affirmative and some may not be. But the conversation ends with closed ended questions.
  • To continue with the conversation.
  • To uncover the mind of the customer.
  • To qualify your prospect.
  • To get more information.

Well, I am convinced that I should ask open ended questions early in the sales process. But, how and where do I start?

Good that you have started asking open ended questions already. Now let’s look at what to ask:

  1. Start with something like this: Can you tell me what are some of the key industry trends in your industry?
  2. How do you keep innovating?
  3. What are some of the key challenges that you are facing?
  4. How did you achieve that?
  5. What makes you unique?
  6. What makes your clients stay with you?
  7. What do you do for achieving total customer satisfaction?
  8. What is your process for collecting customer feedback?
  9. What in your view is the biggest client acquisition ever? And why?
  10. Where and how do you find your clients?
  11. Who do you think is your closest Competitor and why?
  12. Where do we go from here?
  13. What are your suggestions for us?
  14. What can we do to help you mitigate those risks?
  15. What is your evaluation criteria?
  16. What is your process in such a scenario?
  17. Why would you want to buy this?
  18. What made you talk to us?
  19. What would make us look even better?
  20. How can we help you?

This is just a sample. Write your own set of open ended questions in your own words. You may want to write one set for each prospect you are meeting since no two sales situations are similar. But remember not to over do it. You have to invest time and energy to do this exercise. It is neither necessary to do this in one sitting nor it is possible to do it in one sitting. You need to get involved, invest time and energy and do this exercise with love.

Happy Selling !! Err Happy Questioning !!